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Guide To Buying a Camcorder
Video Quality Is More Than HD


There are many things to consider when buying a camcorder.   If you're starting from scratch, you may want to read this article first: 

How To Choose A Camcorder

One of the top considerations in choosing a camcorder is video quality.  Since most camcorders do well in bright light, a key consideration is how well a camera will perform in a low-light setting. 

These are all great camcorders. Which one do you buy?


Sensor

For the best picture quality, choose a camcorder with the largest video sensor possible.

The sensor is the part that the light hits. The larger the sensor, the more detail it can pick up and the better the picture quality. Therefore, in low-light situations, you’ll see less grain in the video image. 

As examples:

  • The Samsung HMX-H204BN has a 3.32MP image sensor

  • The Canon VIXIA HF S11 has a 8.59MP image sensor *MUCH better.. and more expensive.

HINT!   You should pay less attention to the kind of sensor in your camcorder and more attention to the pixel count and physical size of the sensor.

You're better off buying a camcorder with a larger image sensor even if it has fewer pixels than a competitive model with a smaller sensor and more pixels. Many HD camcorders will proudly promote themselves as “Full HD” and offer 1920 x 1080 resolution recording. However, not all Full HD camcorders record at the same maximum bit-rate.

Let’s pretend we have two camcorders: Camcorder A and Camcorder B. Camcorder A records 1920 x 1080 video at 15Mbps. Camcorder B records 1920 x 1080 video at 24Mbps. Both have the same video resolution, but Camcorder B has the higher bit rate. All things being equal, Camcorder B will produce the higher quality video.


Progressive Vs Interlace

i is for interlace and p is for progressive. If at all possible, get a “progressive sensor”. Progressive does well on both TV and computer screens. Therefore, 1080p is better than 1080i.


Lux Rating

Another thing to look for is the camcorder’s lux rating. The lower the number the better.

A video camera with a lux rating of 2 is far better than a camera with a lux rating of 10. But the lux rating system is not an exact science. To know for sure how well a camera does in low light, you’ll need to test it for yourself.



Summary

So how do you know how well your camcorder will do in low light? The truth is, most camcorders these days do fairly well in low-light situations. So as long as you’re buying a decent HD camera, this shouldn’t be a huge issue. 

However, if you want the best image quality possible when buying a camcorder, look for a camera with the biggest image sensor possible. The sensor’s size is even more important than the number of pixels, but pixels are important too (just not as important as the sensor). And progressive is better than interlace.

As always, you get what you pay for. The larger the sensor, usually, the higher the price.


What's the Best Camcorder for Documentary Filmmaking?

November 2011/Entry from the Ask A Question Forum:

Buying a Camcorder for Documentary Filmmaking
I need advice buying a camcorder. I'm going to be doing some interviews that I'd like to video record. Initially they'll appear only on the web, but... Click to read more..



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